designed for the way women work.
[This is a story I published several years ago on Mother’s Day. My mom is now nearly 98 and is still enjoying her garden at her cottage in Salisbury, Connecticut where she lives with a companion, though she has hung up her garden gloves and tools. The story speaks to a love of gardening instilled by someone we love.]
My mother is a vigorous lifelong gardener with a variety of gardens on her property in Sharon, CT in the northwestern corner of the state, and a small pond which provides a focal point behind the house. She also has a raised bed vegetable patch which produces broccoli, brussel sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes and beans. She finds that the rule in her garden is ‘one for me and one for the rabbits.’ Sometimes it’s two for the rabbits to her one.
Recently I spent an afternoon gardening with my mother. When I got there she had her shovel deep in her compost bin. Then she dropped the compost on a screen positioned over her wheelbarrow and began rubbing it through the screen. The result was the most perfect soil I have ever seen.
When ambling through her gardens she points out the lavender that came from a friend, or the iris she transplanted from their former home in Weston, CT. There’s one small plant I divided last season and gave to her, a chocolate-y heuchera caramel. In my garden half of the plants are from my mother’s garden, divided over the years and dropped in a pot or wrapped in wet newspaper for transporting to my garden.
It’s part of the fun and the ritual of gardening, sharing and recalling where our plants came from. My mother’s sister in Minnesota has poppies that came from my great uncle’s garden in Emmetsburg, Iowa. He died at the age of 97, over 30 years ago, but his poppies still live. When we look at the poppies we think of Uncle Harold. I have asked her to collect seeds for me so I can try propagating them in my garden.
I remember many years ago my grandmother showed me a somewhat tattered photo she had of her perennial garden, established along a high riverbank back in Iowa where my mother and her sister and brother grew up. Although the picture was in black and white I could tell my grandmother saw all the colors in her garden when she looked at it. She loved looking at that picture.
[This story was first published for Horticulture in May 2012.]